Look for Cancer, and Find It

“Look for Cancer, and Find It” by Denise Grady, The New York Times Well Blog.

Mammography has become a fighting word in recent years, with some researchers questioning its value and others staunchly defending it. One especially disturbing criticism is that screening mammography may lead to “overtreatment,” in which some women go through grueling therapies — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy — that they do not need. Indeed, some studies estimate that 19 percent or more of women whose breast cancers are found by mammography wind up being overtreated. This problem occurs, researchers say, because mammography can “overdiagnose” breast cancer, meaning that some of the tiny cancers it finds would probably never progress or threaten the patient’s life. But they are treated anyway. So where are these overtreated women? Nobody knows.

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